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View of a boys head from above as he reads Torah using a yad

Twenty-five years ago, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin wrote Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah, winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for the best religion book published in the United States. In that book, he sought to answer the question: “How can a 13-year-old boy or girl feel the spiritual promise of the event, the pull of the divine, and understand that he or she is participating in an event that has meaning both in the ancient past and in...

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Two Syrian refugee sisters reuniting at the airport in Chicago

I have told the Passover story over and over, year after year – tasting bitterness, weeping salty tears, making mortar for bricks, and baking flat bread. And then we were liberated – with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with signs and wonders – and I danced joyfully with Miriam, tambourine in hand. Dayenu. It would have been enough. Throw in some macaroons and those jelly fruit slices… Dayenu, indeed.   

Last week, however, I not only felt the Passover story, I watched it unfold before my eyes.

At...

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Photo of an elderly and smiling Agi Rado with short grey hair and wearing a pink patterned blouse

I met Agi Rado many years ago when I was a philosophy major at Loyola University Maryland and she was on staff in the music department. When I signed up to take piano lessons, I did not know she was a Holocaust survivor. I got to know more about Agi as I learned under her expert and gentle instruction, but she never talked about her personal experiences during World War II.

I graduated college, and life gripped me in its incessant motion forward. I regretted that I did not stay in touch with Agi.

This is, until this past fall, when I decided to drop in at...

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Close ups of two older men sitting next to one another while holding cups of coffee

I spent the day with an old history-holding friend, one of those people with whom the history reaches so far back that each comment is rich with understanding.

I spent the day with an old friend, whose insights were so sweet because they were born out of a deep connection and an intrinsic love and acceptance.

I spent the day with a dear old friend, whose response to each comment I made pushed me deeply to examine who I was and who I want to become.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides differentiated three categories of friendship:

a person befriended for a purpose, a...

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Hanging kitchen utensils

Beyond four cups, four children, and four questions, there’s a fourth set of four to consider, as if we didn’t already have enough.

No sooner do we put down the Haggadah, than we pick up the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot, for study during the seven weeks between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. The rabbis of Pirkei Avot (5:15) bring us four kinds of students, and the Mishnah goes on to compare each one to a kitchen utensil of all things – as if you haven’t been spending...

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